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    Finger-Joint Basics

    The finger joint is a simpler version of the dovetail joint, and both are used to hold the sides of a box together solidly, whether it is a big blanket chest or a little drawer. The finger joint doesn’t lock the pieces together like its fancier cousin, but it certainly makes a strong joint when you add glue. And since all of its angles are 90°, it is much easier to make.

    You can make finger joints on a router table or tablesaw, but you need some sort of jig to hold the pieces upright, with a key of some kind that sits in one notch while you cut the next one. This ensures that the fingers and spaces are exactly identical, so everything comes together perfectly.

    The best method for cutting finger joints is with a jig on the tablesaw, using a dado set to cut the notches. Note how the small pin determines the space between the fingers. Drawing by Jim Richey

    Whether for the router table or tablesaw, the jig is basically the same. It rides in a slot in the table, called the miter slot. There isn’t enough space here to describe how to make one, but there are plenty of articles on that subject. If you don’t want to bother, just buy one from a company like Rockler.

    You can also buy a jig for finger joints. This one, from Rockler, works on a router table. Photo courtesy of Rockler

    Once your setup is perfect (you’ll take some test cuts to dial it in), you can whip through a stack of box sides in no time, much faster than you can cut dovetails.

    Some people think finger joints are a little plain for fine furniture, but they are certainly nice for small boxes and the drawers in a shop cabinet.